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|2457: Ray of
Hope, Decatur, Georgia, USA
Worshipper: Joliet Jane.
Ray of Hope
Christian Church, Decatur, Georgia, USA.
Church (Disciples of Christ).
A modern brick structure on a campus that includes a chapel,
family life center and office building in addition to the sanctuary.
All appear very well maintained. The sanctuary is somewhat semi-circular,
with live plants bordering the slightly raised altar/pulpit.
Lighting was bright in the front but dimmed as you moved further
back. Huge banners framed the altar and banners were draped
horizontally over each seating section extending beyond the
balcony. The atmosphere was warm and inviting.
The congregation was formed in 1985. They say that their purpose
is "to transform this present world into the kingdom of
God" and to pursue God with "reckless abandon."
There are 51 ministries within the church, 26 of which are related
directly to community life and outreach. Please see their website
for a listing and description.
Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, is a city of about 20,000 in north
central Georgia. Its proximity to Atlanta, coupled with good
mass transit, make it a trendy place to live for college students
and young professionals. The church is located in the deliciously
named Snapfinger district more suburban than urban, mixed
residential and commercial, predominately African American and
middle income. The church campus is the largest structure in
The Revd Taft Quincey Heatley, executive pastor and minister
to men. But it was Youth Sunday, so teenagers were in control.
The date & time:
October 28, 2012, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship: Youth Sunday.
How full was the building?
Ten minutes before start time there were 36 people in a space
for about 3000. When the doors were closed promptly at 10.00am,
it was about 35 per cent full. By the time of the sermon it
was just a bit over half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone going in at the same time as I was held the door for
me. Inside, a deacon at the information table said hello and
welcome. A lady named Gwen, who was the prayer ministry leader,
gave me a hug. But there was no one sitting near me until mid-service.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were quite comfortable, with cushions on both the seat
and back. Really good for taking a nap.
How would you describe the pre-service
The pre-service was very social outside the sanctuary. But inside
it was a desert isle. There was soft jazz playing.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Word tells us
that everything that has breath, praise ye the Lord!"
What books did the congregation use during the
None. The responsive reading was on the overhead screens, along
with lyrics to the songs. Bibles in the pews (New International
Version) were very sparse.
What musical instruments were played?
Several keyboards, guitars, drums. There were dancers who danced
to pre-recorded music.
Did anything distract you?
Purple and blue banners framing the altar were more the focal
point than was the cross. In fact, I had to search for the cross.
Banners also blocked the view of the screens that the readings
and lyrics were on. Babies began to cry toward the end of the
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
High charged energy like at a rock concert. It was Youth Sunday,
so the music and worship were geared towards the youth. Loud
thumping music with teens moving to the beat. The dancers did
their thing right before the sermon. The dance music was a bit
slower than the rest of the music, and it seemed that the congregation
welcomed the change of pace. The dancers were in full length
robes and used flags extensively as batons. Later, during the
peace, it was all bear hugs and "Good morning, God bless you!"
and then on to the next person. There was an altar call.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 The Revd Taft Quincey Heatley was funny yet dealt with
topics of the day well. He was easy to listen to. It was more
a conversation than a written speech. He connected well with
every age group.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
"Going Through" was the title that he gave it. As
Christians we all have to go through trials, tribulations and
such. He recalled Thanksgiving dinner at his parents' home,
how his mom would be inside cooking while his father was in
charge of the turkey. Just as his father seasoned the turkey,
God seasons us with his Word. His father checked the cooking
oil to see if it was hot enough. God tests us to see if we are
strong enough to handle trials. His father removed the turkey
from the hot oil when it was done. God pulls us out of our trials
as soon as we are ready to be a blessing to others. We are in
fact like a fried Thanksgiving turkey. (In fact, he made several
comparison to food, but I had never before thought of life's
trials as being like frying a turkey.)
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The altar call. It was a powerful and moving prayer for physical
and spiritual healing.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The sharing of the peace. There was no respect for personal
space just full frontal bear hugs from total strangers.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I felt like a goofball. No one said a word to me other than
"Excuse me" when I was bumped into. Everyone was in
a hurry to get to where they were going or to catch up with
How would you describe the after-service
If there was a coffee hour it was not mentioned.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 The distance is too far from my home. However, the
ministries and social commitment of the church would make it
appealing. This is a fun loving worship environment that is
committed to changing the community or at least they
give that impression to a first time visitor.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Even though I did not like the hugs, it felt like a genuine
gesture of the love Christ wants us to share with each other.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fried turkey comparison. I have already retold it twice.
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